Fixed At Last

Every time you drive in your car and hit a pothole on a city street, I am betting you get really grumpy. You wonder why the city hasn’t done repairs to maintain the roads. Cuss word, cuss word. At the end of the day, all you remember about your community is that darn pothole. You have conveniently forgotten why your city is one to be proud of. Great schools, thriving businesses, landscaped parks, a new convention center…that damn pothole.

We’ve all heard that first impressions are important. Well, I’m here to tell you… it’s LAST impressions that matter. Ok, just hear me out. How many times have you met someone, only to forget their name 20 minutes later? Once you part ways, you think about the great conversation with …. with … with Mr. Cafe’ Latte’ in the blue blazer. Was the blue jacket the first thing your introduction consisted of? Probably not. After several minutes of talk, a coffee order ensued. Your acquaintance was likely holding that empty Styrofoam cup when you parted ways. That’s a last impression, AND a lasting one.

Now let’s apply that to our customer base. Always – ALWAYS – great your customer pleasantly. Do the assigned work, fill out your service ticket, and explain your processes to your client. Leave a last (and lasting) impression on them that doesn’t let them question hiring you. A clean uniform and vehicle are a great place to start. Equipment in working order is a must. Breakdowns happen, but you should be prepared to manage those “what ifs” with the proper tools and extra parts. Don’t ever ask the customer for tools or spare parts. That scene will make them grumpy, and you just became the hole in the road.

Managing a first impression is important, but last impressions are even more important. There is a training opportunity for you by asking the customer how they feel about your quality of work. It will help you grow. It gets the customer engaged in your process, and that means they will see value in what you do. Lasting impressions are about the client “buy in” of why, how, and what we do. Now – how do I get that pothole fixed?

Trust Me. It’s Newsworthy.

I chose the title of this post to get your attention. It must have worked because you are intrigued and reading. I want to tell my colleagues, industry professionals, customers, and anyone else who will hear my cries – You can trust in me. You can trust in my skills. You can trust in my knowledge. I stand by these statements in high regard.

I stand by my training because it was professionally created. I stand by the professionals who gave me training – well, most of them. I stand by the former employers who insisted on my professional training. I stand by the friends, mentors, product manufacturers, supply vendors, business owners and competitors who make it easy for me to get professional training.

I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE

I am a solo owner operator of a pest control business. I understand my industry. I realize that it is necessary for me to continue educating myself in my industry. I need to keep an eye on the trending topics related to my industry. I need to know why my industry does things a certain way. It is crucial for me to learn about new products and processes. It is important that I understand why rules, regulations, and procedures change.

These short statements are part of the critical thinking that goes in to daily problem solving, not just for pest control, but for any industry. These bits of wisdom take me to my days as a journalism student. Business owners need to know these 6 bits of newspaper jargon: Who – What -When – Where – Why – How.

THE EDUCATION TRANSLATION

The owners of many small independent locally owned businesses are some of the most well trained, confident, articulate, able bodied professionals you will find. They likely worked for their biggest competitor and soaked up any and all the training that was offered. They were confident enough in that corporate training to tweak some things and start their own business.Just because a consumer doesn’t recognize the name of a company, doesn’t necessarily mean said company is incapable of performing the service.

I once chose a plumbing company because their yellow page ad was kind of cool. (Yes, I’m “yellow pages” old.) I should have done the homework on this business. I felt like I was scammed. When you’re in need of a plumber, it’s likely an emergency, or it seems like one.

I won’t use this business again, but I did let them know of my complaint so they could better serve another client. My intent wasn’t to put them out of business, but for them to correct the issue. I hope that is what happened. Their trucks are still traveling around the community.

REFER TO THE STORY

Service industries write a story every time they visit a customer. That story can be a dull read – like my experience with the plumbing company, but I prefer a story with a happy ending. Don’t you?

Your customer is the WHO. They contact your business because they have WHAT they feel is a problem. Service industry professionals seldom get a call from a customer wanting to chit chat about sports or the weather. You put them in the schedule WHEN it’s appropriate.

Do you know WHERE you’re going? Get that mapping function turned on. As you assess the situation, and figuring out WHY the issue has occurred, your professional training will help you find the best solution on HOW to achieve a remedy.

I am happy to be a service provider. My goal is to be the preferred provider to ensure customers understand my scheduled visits are helping maintain life, health, and safety from pests that invade homes and businesses.

And like Adolph S. Ochs / New York Times said in 1897: that’s “all the news that’s fit to print.”

Inspections And Insurance

Your bank requires insurance on your home and auto if you hold a loan with them. You take the time to invoice all your valuables so insurance policies will cover damage and losses of said items. That fancy smart watch on your wrist comes with a manufacturer’s warranty if there are defects. You bought the extra warranty for computer you are using to read this blog post because you want additional protection from the fact that “stuff happens”.

ANSWER ME THIS

So… here’s my question to you – ALL of you: Why didn’t you schedule an annual pest control inspection? Take a minute to compose your answer. I’ll wait.

What’s it worth to know your property is protected? Homeowner policies don’t cover pest control damage because insurance companies determine that pest damage is preventable. That’s right…..PREVENTABLE. Yes, even in your home, stuff happens.

Termite damage, carpenter ant damage , carpenter bee damage isn’t covered in a homeowner’s insurance policy. It isn’t something the homeowner can add to a policy like flood or water damage. Simply put… There is NO coverage for pest damage.

Dust application for carpenter bees in my garage

GET THE INSPECTION

Some pest companies charge for an inspection without service, some don’t. The criteria for this varies based on location & which company is called to do the inspection. It is up to you as the homeowner, to make sure you understand what the inspection covers and if a warranty is included. Making sure you get what you are paying for is key.

Annual home pest inspections aren’t required by homeowner’s insurance. I talked to my own insurance agent about this. As a State Farm agent, she said she wasn’t aware of any instances where a homeowner tried to submit a claim for insect or other pest damages. In Kansas (my state of residence), the only pest damage that IS covered with my insurance policy is from a wild bear.

Damage from goats isn’t covered, either.

Pest control inspections are comparable to those insurance policies and warranties. They offer protection and peace of mind for your property , which is likely your biggest investment. Pest control inspections, with or without regular chemical applications, can give you the information to keep your property intact. We all want our homes to be a safe, livable space for years to come. Pest control inspections are one step to do that.

Those annual pest control inspections cost less than the warranty for that new laptop computer you just bought. You will be replacing electronics every few years due to outdated technology, and buying yet another insurance or warranty policy to cover damages and defects. Doesn’t your home deserve the same consideration?

Cookies & Trivia- Meet & Greet

While the husband went deer hunting, I was getting ready for a local small business event where I am able to promote my business. I am still growing my client list, and these public encounters really help. I had all of my swag and marketing materials boxed up. It was the usual stuff – pens, notepads, business cards. I also had ice scrapers, rulers, and flyswatters. Yes… flyswatters. I was hesitant about bringing them. After all, it is the start of winter.

Some of the goodies I had ready was some holiday decor, pest control equipment and products I commonly use. The truck was loaded and I was ready. I usually get nervous in public settings, but I knew this was going to be really fun.

Setting Up

I came prepared for a great event. My table was set.

My daughter Ashly and I had swag bags ready to go. Those that agreed to answer a trivia question (and got the answer correct) received a goodie bag. We made sure that no one walked away empty handed. We gave out rulers. Potential new customers needed to know that Horizon Pest Solutions really does “measure up”.

There were cookies

Not everyone wanted a cookie. “OMG! These have bugs!”, was a common response. I thought they were fabulously awesome. Two ladies who – I can only guess- were friends, used the flyswatters for a fight. This interaction was similar to children hitting each other with a Christmas wrapping paper tube. I did notice that a couple of alcoholic beverages were involved.

GIVEAWAYS

I wanted everyone to have a good time. I think the endgame was successful. I helped a friend of mine in her business, too. I purchased a couple of holiday wreaths from her to give away. There were raffles for pest control traps and other items. While I do have a pesticide dealer permit, no chemicals were included.

A lady who won a wreath came dancing all the way to our table to collect her prize. That’s the type of fun I was hoping for by participating in this event.

TRIVIA QUESTIONS

When I got the idea for trivia, I was worried that I couldn’t come up with enough questions that the general public could answer. I was so wrong. Once I started writing, I ended up with 90…yes, 90 questions. That’s only 10 fewer than what are on a Certified Applicator exam.

One by one, the participants agreed to answer some trivia. Some were uncertain they knew anything about pest control. “You know more than you think,” I told them.

True or False -“Robins can be kept as pets?” I asked. A woman answered, “You can not. Don’t ask me how I know.”

True or False – Spiders sometimes use cannibalism to survive. TRUE

True or False – Some types of soft ticks feed on rattlesnakes or turtles? TRUE

True or False – Pheromones are only used to trap insects? FALSE they are designed as a monitoring tool.

The State of Kansas has only 1 female Associate Certified Entomologist. Who is it? IT’S ME! MELISA ARNOLD

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE FOOD

What’s something you do every day that is so natural you barely know you’re involved in the activity? For me, it’s opening and closing the refrigerator door a thousand times a day. Not because I’m hungry. It’s more about boredom. This behavior started as a kid to annoy my mom. I still wonder, “Does the light really shut off when I close the door?”

Over the years, I’ve developed a muscle memory towards this behavior. I do it….just because. No rhyme or reason.

I LOVE CARTOONS

Rodents have a muscle memory, too. When it comes to their chosen path of travel, they choose one that is safe and familiar. I have seen mice run so fast that they actually hop over a multi catch trap…and keep going like the cartoon character Speedy Gonzales. It’s hard to know what, or who, is chasing them.

Mice use that learned behavior to duck into safe places, too. Well, a place they think is safe. Like Jerry trying to get away from Tom, mice will turn a corner at high speed and find the nearest opening to get out of harm’s way. Their beady little eyes will eventually look out to make sure the coast is clear.

While Sylvester James Pussycat, Sr. and Thomas The Cat never really caught their nemesis, we as pest control professionals have many tricks up our sleeves that help us be effective. We don’t work in a cartoon world, but the work can be just as amusing.

IT’S ALL IN THE “HOW”

Over the years, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks to be effective at trapping and catching an elusive mouse. It can be a challenge, but patience is key. The easiest part of this task is making sure you have all the right tools and equipment needed.

If you’ve got any amount of tenure in pest management, I’m sure you have favorite brands and types of products to use. It really doesn’t matter what company’s products are used. It matters HOW you use them. It matters that the equipment is fully functional. It matters that you have the right bait – toxic or not. I matters that you are monitoring these devices regularly.

WHO MOVED MY CHEESE

In my course of trials and errors, mice rarely went for the trap where cheese was used as bait. I’ve had better luck with cotton balls soaked in vanilla or chocolate syrup. I have tried other items like beef jerky, slightly chewed gum, jelly, grains, plastic wrap, and paper.

Do you wanna know what worked the best for me? A little bit of flour mixed with mineral oil. Yep, that’s right, part of the mixture to make a basic cookie recipe. Move over cheese, cookies are taking your place. Now, to decide….chocolate chip or oatmeal?